About Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud is a national contest, a joint project of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, in which high school students memorize and recite poetry for an audience. Poetry Out Loud begins at the classroom/school or at the local level with an area organization. Winners may then advance to the statewide competition. The winners from each US state and territory then compete at the National Finals.

Champions from each school-wide or organization contest are invited to compete at the West Virginia State Finals, usually held in the Norman L. Fagan State Theater at the Culture Center in Charleston. In addition to contestants from all over the state performing poetry, the event also features guest speakers and celebrated performers. Recent guests include storyteller and Vandalia Award winner Bil Lepp, poets Randi Ward and Doug Van Gundy, musicians Kaia Kater and Christian Lopez, and West Virginia’s poet laureate Marc Harshman.

For advice on coordinating an event and questions about classroom, school, and state contests, contact:
James D. Wolfe, Poetry Out Loud Coordinator
The Culture Center, State Capitol Complex
1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
Charleston, WV 25305

School & Organization Contests

  • Teachers use the Poetry Out Loud Teacher’s Guide to incorporate standards-based curriculum and hold classroom contests. Winners from classroom contests go on to compete at the school level.
  • Schools must hold a contest to select a champion.
  • Contests must include at least two students, evaluated by Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria
  • Students recite one poem per round.
  • Students must prepare at least 2 poems to recite at the school or organization contest level.
  • Scores from all rounds added to determine winner.

Registration and Release Forms

Rules and Guidelines

  • High school students in grades 9-12 (or 8th grade students in a participating 9-12 class)
  • No student may be excluded from participating in Poetry Out Loud on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin. Schools may determine eligibility for classroom and school level Poetry Out Loud programming pursuant to local and state law. For more information (particularly regarding prize eligibility), visit this page.
  • Community organizations may choose to sponsor a POL competition for students who are unable to participate in a school-based competition.
  • Schools or organizations must register at this link by December 8, 2023. 
  • Homeschool students and students without access to a school or organization-based local program may participate by registering directly with the State Arts Office. For more info, email james.d.wolfe@wv.gov.
  • Poems are selected from the Poetry Out Loud anthology (updated every summer)
  • Students competing in the State Finals select 3 poems: one 25 lines or shorter; one written before the 20th century; same poem may meet both criteria.
  • For more details on eligibility rules and other guidance on the competition, review the Poetry Out Loud Teacher’s Guide.

State Champions

State Champion Recitations

2022 – Morgan Sprouse
2021 – Ben Long
2020 – Rhéa Ming
2019 – Brett Napier
2018 – Jordyn Marshall
2017 – Tyler Ray
2016 – Neely Seams